Haiti & the USA

Just found this great site tracing interactions between Haiti and the US through history. The site is the work of Dr. Bob Maguire at Trinity College.

“Haiti & the USA – Linked by History and Community”:www.haiti-usa.org

Bloomberg’s Visit and a little Heads-Up

New York City Mayor Bloomberg finally took his trip to Haiti. He spent about 20 minutes in the slum streets, placed a wreath in the Champs de Mars, visited a hospital, and met with Prime Minister Latortue. You can read the whole “article at the New York Times”:http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/28/nyregion/28bloomberg.html?ex=1248667200&en=81f35d43d209ad5b&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland.

Now for the Heads-Up. I haven’t posted much here lately, but I haven’t lost interest in the project. On the contrary, I’ve been working on an exciting new phase, researching, reading, and collecting material for a website that’s going to take The Louverture Project into a new dimension. Not much more to say than that for now, so watch here for updates.

World donors pledge over $1.5bn in aid

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Donors pledge $1bn in Haiti aid

The additional pledges came at the donors’ conference for Haiti at the World Bank in Washington, attended by donor institutions, nations and NGOs.

A total of $1.085bn extra was pledged – in addition to $440m already committed.

It came after US Secretary of State Colin Powell urged countries to help Haiti “build a better future”, and announced that the US would triple this year’s aid.

“Over the past 12 months especially,” he said, they “have experienced economic crisis, political chaos, floods and fires”.

Aid charity Oxfam said many of the pledges were not grants, but loans that would push Haiti further into debt.

An assessment by Haiti, the European Commission, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the United Nations and the World Bank found that Haiti would need $1.365bn over the next two years to rebuild.

One of the world’s poorest countries, it lacks basic infrastructure like roads, bridges and electricity. Unemployment is at about 60%, and about 5% of Haitians has HIV/Aids.

The Haitian Revolution conference notes – Final Day

Notes from the final session and wrap-up.

h3. Session VIII – Representations of the Revolution

*Chair: Pierre Saint-Amand, Brown University*

*Alyssa Sepinwall*
President Adams said of Saint-Domingue “They are necessary to us and we are necessary to them.”
Haiti’s revolution showed blacks that servitude was not inevitable.

*Léon-François Hoffman*
In the few French literary references to the revolution – and there are very few – the word “revolution” was assiduously avoided in favor of words like “revolt, uprising, mutiny, perfidy” and so on.
The French today remain unaware of the revolution.

Pierre Saint-Amand reads for *Carlo Celius*
July 14, 1793 – Sonthonax celebrates Bastille Day by freeing some slaves. They came home with a “cap of liberty” [- frisson cap?]
There was a picture of Sonthonax – round, soft, red-haired.
The adoption of the name Haity was symbolic of the victory of the oppressed (because of the Taino – “Ayti” was their name for the island).
Free people of color were fighting for equality; slaves were fighting for freedom.

h3. Session IX – Reviews and Responses: A Panel

*Chair: David Brion Davis, Yale Univ*

*David Brion Davis*
The Haitian Revolution is the only successful slave rebellion
Slave rebellions were suicidal because they were so brutally repressed.

*Bernard Bailyn*
This wasn’t a revolution. It was the unfolding of a process whose deepest urge was emancipation.
It was a vast and irreversibly transformative event that brought an end to Atlantic civilization as it had been known.
It wasn’t, in fact, “unthinkable,” but quite thinkable revolution [note, this is a rejection of an over-simplification of Trouillot’s oft-repeated quote, IMHO], a movement of tectonic plates, presaged by rumblings and near-quakes.
Failure in Haiti redefined the world, not just in France selling the Louisiana Territory, but in the fall of European colonialism. It opened the door to the dominance of the US in the Western hemisphere.

*Sidney Mintz*
The period saw the rise of plantation commodities.
The _affranchis_ had developed great power and influence, disturbing to Saint-Domingue society.

*Robin Blackburn*
Haitian spectacle had an impact directly on British consideration of slavery.
Jefferson was frightened by seeing whites helping blacks to achieve emancipation.

*Questions/comments*
[Brazilian scholar whose name I didn’t catch:] There was also a “slow war” against slavery – the individual resistance that made it too costly to hold slaves. Immigrant labor became cheaper.
Malick Ghachem – The Haitian Revolution forced historians to talk differently about American and French revolutions – why didn’t the Americans resolve the slave question?
?Davis??: Slavery-produced commodities created an economic engine.


Whew! I’m exhausted. This was my first scholarly conference and even though I mostly felt like a fish out of water, I left incredibly stimulated. I have a fresh appreciation for the depth of the issues surrounding Haiti’s legendary revolution. This is a period of intense study in the field and there are some excellent minds giving careful attention to the subject. I am inspired to continue my studies; perhaps eventually I can offer a small bit to this engaging and worthwhile discussion.

The Haitian Revolution conference notes – Day Two

More barely-edited notes from Day Two

h3. Session V – Unfolding of the Slave Revolution: Part Two

*Chair – Robin Blackburn, Univ of Essex*

*Vertus Saint-Louis*
…read his paper “Law, Commerce and Revolution in Saint-Domingue (1789-1804), copies of which were distributed.

*Carolyn Fick*
Toussaint was responding to changing attitudes in the French Constituent.
In 1794, freedom was extended to colonies.
In Toussaint’s letter to the French Directory of November 5th, 1797, he took a stand of Republican values. This was perhaps the key turning point for Toussaint in defending Saint-Domingue’s liberty.
Toussaint was acting in accord with the promises of (one version of) the French government.
Toussaints’s stance put him directly in Napoleon’s path.
Toussaint struck a blow at the ontological foundations of white supremacy and at the foundations of the colonial order (by being a former slave who declared himself governor).
Fick notes the places where Toussaint sowed the seeds of his downfall – the weaknesses in his Leclerc-era strategy.
The war of emancipation became a war of independence.

*Laurent Dubois*
– has a new book, “Avengers of the New World”
Violence in Haitian Revolution
Jean Francois, Biassou and Toussaint realized that Jeannot represented a “PR problem” his violence would create problems in the inevitable negotiations with the white French.
The barbarism of 1791 later hurt the cause of the revolution.
Toussaint’s generosity cultivates white planters’ gratitude.
It is interesting that talking about violence is often avoided.
Toussaint argues that it is important to _produce_ in order to _preserve_ freedom.

*Questions*
Saint-Louis: Violence is a fact of the dominators, not of the oppressed. Violence is the origin of property… and the origin of the property of slaves (slaves as property). in a state, right is imposed by violence.
Dubois: Violence is as inherent in slavery as it is in the struggle for independence.
Fick: By 1800, Toussaint was spending 60% of his budget on defence. … Leclerc launches the war, not Toussaint.

h3.
Continue reading The Haitian Revolution conference notes – Day Two

The Haitian Revolution conference notes – Day One

Long day of very interesting discussion. I’ll post my notes here – very rough and barely edited.

h3. Session I

Saint-Domingue on the Eve of Revolution: Politics and Economics
Chair: Philip P. Boucher, Univ of Alabama in Huntsville
Jacques de Cauna, Bordeaux: “Apercus sur le systeme des habitations a SD a partir des vestiges subsistant en Haiti” (read by David Bell)
David Geggus, Univ of Florida: “The Colony of SD on the Eve of Revolution
Gene Ogle, John Cabot Univ (Rome): “Colonial Absolutism: Politics in Principle and Practice in Old Regime SD”
Commentator: David A Bell, Johns Hopkins Univ

*David Bell*
Read the presentation of Jacques de Cauna, who could not be here in person. The paper, accompanied by slides, described the plantations of Saint Domingue. To all appearances, the plantation was like a small town, with numerous workshops and workers with many specialized skills.
Next to the main house, a belfry was built; the bell called the slaves to work. A dungeon existed for recalcitrant workers.
Sugar can was boiled, the raw sugar separated and dried in stacked casks for two weeks before being shipped off for sale. The scum was drained off and fermented to make rum.
Slave huts were set off from the big house [with a savanna between?].

*David Geggus*
Haiti’s revolution was important because of where it took place & because of the colony’s wealth & importance to France.
Slaveowners “walked on barrels of gunpowder” – there was some awareness that the slaves would rise up. (Rare prognostications)
Slaveownsers were also seen as a threat to break from France.
Still, the revolution was unexpected.
Saint Domingue did not see very many insurrections between 1700 & 1791. Partly because many could escape to the mountains or to spanish side. When it became harder to become a maroon in 1780, the stage was set for revolution.
Few who took up arms in 1791 had been marrons, and only one general had been – Jean Francois.
Demography of the slave trade offers compelling pointers to the insurrection, yet the surge of slaves went mostly to the coffee plantations inthe mountains, and these areas were drawn most slowly into the war.
Number of police did not increase commensurate with slave growth – remaining at about 200.
Possibility for manumission declined dramatically.
Fertility rates in the North were drastically low prior to the revolution. (few years before); could be related to overwork and to food shortages.
It is extremely difficult to point to any particular pressure which spawned the revolution.

*Gene Ogle*
The French kings though of themselves as absolute rulers, and their absolute rule extended to the colonies. How was this possible?
The fleur de lis (the symbol of the French monarchy) was everywhere – even burned into the flesh of convicts. Ogle suggests that the slaves rose under the flag of the French king because (some) slaves were used to a similar absolutist rule, and the king’s symbol could stand for many different things.
Absolutism in Colonial rule… Bureaucrats fought over the symbols of power. There was a complex heirarchical structure
There was an imperial sphere and a colonial sphere, the former concerned with matters of state and the latter with theatre, culture, etc.

*David Bell*
Haiti is complex, as revolutions are complex. Warn against unwarranted simplification (volcano, etc). Resist Simplicity!
Some (many?) of the reasons for the French Revolution can be translated into the origins of the revolution in Saint Domingue.
Colonies can be laboratories, in effect, where the pure ideas of the policy makers can be given form without obstruction.
Continue reading The Haitian Revolution conference notes – Day One

The Haitian Revolution conference notes – Opening night.

Well, my idea of blogging the conference may not work out quite as I’d hoped. There’s no net connection in the room we’re in, despite the assurances of several Wi-Fi locator services on the Internet. Also, I didn’t see a power jack anywhere, so my computer note taking may be limited anyway. Also, my iPod ran out of juice as it was recording the lecture tonight, so I lost a lot of information.

Still, I’ll post what I have in raw form. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to go back and update it sooner than later.


I’m sitting in Salamon Hall. It’s just past 8:30. After a lovely reception and a terribly frustrating foray into the tony bowels of Providence in search of food, I’m finally fed, beered, and cooling off. I’m spoiled by the low humidity of Seattle; Providence feels like a sauna, and it doesn’t help to be climbing hills in layers.

There are 100-120 attendees scattered about the auditorium. I’m somewhat surprised by the lack of black faces. They are represented, but in quite the minority.

Norman Fiering is giving some introductory remarks. There will be talks in French! Oh, my. Wish I had studied more. Oh, wait. They’ll be translated. Yay!

Sidney Mintz from Johns Hopkins University introduces H.E. Jean Casmir, Ambassador of the Republic of Haiti to the United States, 1991-1997. Casmir was in ministry of foreign affairs. His area of specialty is 19th century Haitian history – well known in that field. Will talk on Haiti’s transition.

Casmir: “From Saint-Domingue to Haiti: Vivre de nouveau ou vivre enfin” To live again or to live at last? In 1804, Haiti moved suddenly from external to internal organization.

Many slaves did not accept their status as slaves. In the literature you may read that Mackandal was a rogue and a runaway who engaged in furtive raids on plantation property. In reality, though, Mackandal refused to accept that he was a slave, so he moved around freely and fully armed.

Similarly, the slaves did not accept their status as slaves [some? all?]

Around 1790, Africans made up 2/3 of the slave population. Ie, blacks born in Africa and transported by slave ships.

The concept of “negro” is a manufactured concept. A negro is a result of a full process of socialization. There were no negros in africa, only tribes.

France defined the blacks as blacks. Now, at the independence declaration of Dessalins, we have the New Negro. Even today in Haiti, blanc is used to refer to any stranger, regardless of color.

Haiti was an exploitation colony until 1804, when it became a settlement colony.

Today, settler = peasant = habitant

At the end of the 19th century, haiti had had 35 years of peaceful rule.

The peasants in the countryside ruled during the first third of the 19th century These were the native army that fought the French under Toussaint. Up until the depression of that century, Haiti’s agricultural production was even higher than prior to 1804.

Rigaud in the south had to count on the Maroons to fight.

[During question time]

What Haiti lacked was a university which could capitalize on the indigenous development. There was no systematic capturing of knowledge. Haiti had no production of science. Haiti even only wanted to import French science.

Haiti also only relied on foreign boats for trade.

The tribal separation of the imported Africans made them “naked Africans” with no defense and no way to understand each other. [This, then, kept them from standing up to their masters.]

“God gave the land to them with the Indians on it” [Guatemalan quote]

Haiti was not a republic, and certainly not the first free black republic.

There has always been a layer of elite in Haiti that has understood that Haiti needs to work with the outside world. There were two hands – the internal efforts and the external efforts. Most Haitians – espeically in the 19th century were concerned with how to structure the personal life of its citizens.